The Last Post Ceremony commemorating the service of (382) William Christopher Smith, 38th Battalion, First World War

Place Europe: Belgium, Flanders, West-Vlaanderen, Passchendaele
Accession Number PAFU2015/107.01
Collection type Film
Object type Last Post film
Physical description 16:9
Maker Australian War Memorial
Place made Australia: Australian Capital Territory, Canberra, Campbell
Date made 7 March 2015
Access Open
Conflict First World War, 1914-1918
Copyright Item copyright: © Australian War Memorial
Creative Commons License This item is licensed under CC BY-NC
Copying Provisions Copy provided for personal non-commercial use

The Last Post Ceremony is presented in the Commemorative area of the Australian War Memorial each day. The ceremony commemorates more than 102,000 Australians who have given their lives in war and other operations and whose names are recorded on the Roll of Honour. At each ceremony the story behind one of the names on the Roll of Honour is told. Hosted by Richard Cruise, the story for this day was on (382) William Christopher Smith, 38th Battalion, First World War.

Speech transcript

382 William Christopher Smith, 38th Battalion
KIA 13 October 1917
No photograph in collection - Image supplied by family

Story delivered 7 March 2015

Today we remember and pay tribute to Private William Christopher Smith of the 38th Battalion, who was killed in Belgium in the First World War.

William Smith was born in Shepherds Flat in Victoria in 1887, the second of three children born to George and Margaret Smith. The three children had an unfortunate upbringing and were once held in the care of the state. In his adult life William worked as a stationmaster at a property at Leongatha, where he met Lily Eveline Garvie.

William enlisted in the AIF in March 1916 and underwent training at the Epsom Racecourse at Bendigo, where he and other volunteers from the district formed the 38th Battalion. While on home leave, William married Lily at the Presbyterian Church at Leongatha, in what was described as a “very quiet wedding”. The couple travelled to Melbourne by train that afternoon “amid a shower of confetti and congratulations from their friends”. William embarked from Melbourne four days later and sailed for the training camps in England.

The 38th Battalion arrived on the Western Front in November 1916 and spent several months occupying the relatively quiet sector at Houplines. The battalion regularly conducted patrols of no man’s land and periodically raided the German trenches, as well as taking part in the attack on the German positions at Messines on 6 June 1917. As the Australians formed up to attack they were shelled by the Germans; William was mildly affected by gas but recovered within a matter of days. During the battles of Third Ypres, William participated in the attack at Broodseinde and was among the Australian troops that assaulted the village of Passchendaele on 12 October 1917.

William Smith was among 99 men of the 38th Battalion reported missing after the Australian’s failed attempt to reach Passchendaele. Nobody knew what happened to him during the battle, but it was suspected he was killed by artillery fire during the advance.

Back in Australia Lily was informed that her husband was missing, and six months later a court of inquiry determined he had been killed in action. Lily had given birth to a son, Willie, earlier in the year, whom his father never had a chance to meet. William Smith’s remains were lost until the 1920s, when they were uncovered on the battlefield at Passchendaele. He was buried in the Tyne Cot Cemetery in Belgium, where he rests today.

The war and the loss of William Smith had a tremendous impact on his family. Not only did William’s son grow up never meeting his father, but Lily’s older brother, Private William Garvie of the 24th Battalion, had also died in the war. In 1918 Lily wrote a small memorial notice in the local newspaper, describing William as “so fondly loved, so deeply mourned”.

William Smith’s name is listed on the Roll of Honour on my right, along with more than 60,000 others from the First World War and his photograph is displayed today beside the Pool of Reflection.

This is one of the many stories of service and sacrifice told here at the Australian War Memorial. We now remember Private William Christopher Smith, and all of those Australians who have given their lives in service of our nation.

Aaron Pegram
Historian, Military History Section

“Wedding”, Great Southern Star, 16 June 1916, p. 2.

‘Death’, Great Southern Star, 14 May 1918, p. 2.

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